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The Three Laws of Poetics
Stewart C. Baker

There is no handbook
showing what a poem needs
but still no poet should
set out to harm, or
through inaction,
cause a poem to be harmed

A poet must obey
the rules of poems
that have come before,
except where these would clash
with Law the First or are,
like the poet’s own,
impossible, heartfelt

A poet must protect
their own existence
even if doing so might
harm a poem, even if
this conflicts with
the First or Second Laws
or any other Laws
that they hold dear

As for poetry itself,
that limitless abstraction,
no poet (no matter how
sufficiently advanced)
could ever hope to guess
what “harm” might mean
in the long march of years,
the swoop and swirl of stars,
the ever-changing needs
of humanity

Featured Poet of the Month Stewart C. Baker
Stewart C Baker is an academic librarian and author of speculative fiction and poetry. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Nature, Fantasy, Lightspeed, and various other places. Stewart was born in the UK, has lived in South Carolina, Japan, and Southern California and now lives with his family in Oregon within the traditional lands of the Luckiamute Band of Kalapuya—although if anyone asks, he’ll usually say he comes from the internet, where you can find him at

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